Company fails to deliver fuel, prompting suit from state AG - Albuquerque Journal

Company fails to deliver fuel, prompting suit from state AG

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The president of a propane gas company that is the target of a state lawsuit said Thursday that staffing shortages have hindered his ability to deliver the heating fuel to residential customers in northern New Mexico.

Robert Sivers, president of Bob’s LP Gas Inc., acknowledged he is having trouble making propane deliveries to customers as asserted in a lawsuit filed this week by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.

Sivers said he has supplies of propane that he can’t deliver because he can’t hire the required drivers and other personnel.

“I’ve got propane and trucks sitting there,” Sivers said in a phone interview. “I have no drivers. We don’t have the staff to do it.”

Sivers said he could hire four drivers, a bookkeeper and other personnel immediately. Sivers also said he did not know how many customers he has in Rio Arriba County.

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a lawsuit Wednesday in 1st Judicial District Court alleging that Sivers and Bob’s LP Gas have failed to honor contracts to deliver propane to “vulnerable Northern New Mexicans as the winter weather sets in.”

The suit alleges that Bob’s Gas “is refusing to refill propane tanks that consumers lease from the company, despite its obligation to do so.”

Bob’s Gas is a Colorado-based corporation but its principal place of business is Rio Arriba County, according to the suit.

“Bob’s Gas is leaving hundreds of New Mexicans without propane gas for safe heat during freezing temperatures,” Balderas’ office said in a written statement issued Thursday.

Jerri Mares, Balderas’ spokeswoman, said she didn’t know specifically how many customers are affected.

The lawsuit was filed as the state Department of Homeland Security issued a storm warning Thursday, telling people in northern New Mexico to prepare for low temperatures and heavy winds that are expected to continue through Friday night.

“Without propane in colder temperatures, these New Mexicans are forced to resort to burning wood for heat, using dangerous gas grills or electric space heaters for warmth,” the Attorney General’s Office said in its statement.

The suit asks a judge to require Bob’s Gas either to deliver propane to customers or to allow another company to fill the company’s propane tanks. No hearings were scheduled Thursday.

Sivers said that he had given permission for another propane supplier, Ferrellgas Propane, to fill tanks owned by his company. Ferrellgas is the only other propane provider in Rio Arriba County, he said.

“I don’t want to make it hard on the customers,” Sivers said.

Complaints about propane delivery problems have been building since November, state officials said.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has said it has received “numerous complaints” about propane deliveries for about a month.

Failure to deliver propane is a violation of law, the PRC said.

District 3 Commissioner Joseph Maestas asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the complaints in mid-December.

The PRC did not identify Bob’s Gas, but said a company based in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, “claimed delays were due to a shortage of specialty propane delivery drivers.”

“When customers rent their propane tanks, part of the rental agreement is that only that company may be used to fill the propane tanks,” the PRC said in its statement.

The AG’s Office asked people with complaints about propane delivery to contact staff at 1-844-255-9210 or to file a complaint on its website at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

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